Steve Smith and the Aussies celebrate the win over New Zealand.
Steve Smith and the Aussies celebrate the win over New Zealand.

How India loss became a catalyst for Cup charge

Australia's ability to build in to a tournament and peak when it matters has been on show in their run to the World Cup semi-finals, with an honest team meeting after defeat to India focusing minds.

The 7-1 Aussies have won five consecutive World Cup games since that 36-run loss to Virat Kohli's men with their knack of nailing "tournament play" helping feed the camp's overflowing confidence.

"We've always spoken about peaking towards the back end of the tournament," Mitchell Starc said after the 86-run belting of New Zealand.

"We're still searching for that perfect performance - we're not quite there yet.

"We're showing glimpses of what we are capable of with the ball and with the bat and in the field, but we have still got room to improve.

"We've got to play our best game in the semi-final now and hopefully better that in the final - that's what tournament play is all about."

They travel to Manchester on Sunday and face South Africa (2-5) on Saturday night with the past two champions - Australia and India - shaping as the likely finalists.

Australia boasts six out of the eight World Cup winners playing in the 2019 edition while assistant coaches Ricky Ponting won three (two as captain) and Brad Haddin one (2015).

Ponting said pre-tournament that he wanted the team to "almost feel underdone" early on so it would peak in the knockout rounds.

"The biggest thing you have to be wary of with World Cups is just how hard you train, how often you train and you don't use your whole tank up too early," Ponting said.

Australia has nailed that, banking scratchy wins against West Indies, Pakistan and Sri Lanka before bowling out contenders England (221) and New Zealand (157) in crushing wins at Lord's this week.

Kiwi superstar Trent Boult said it was Australia's to lose.

"World Cups - they turn up for them," Boult said.

"They've obviously got a good record at them and they're peaking nicely now.

"It's all about timing in my opinion, and they've performed well and there's only a couple of weeks left so they'll be the ones to beat."

The Aussies are 48-4 in World Cups since midway through 1999 in a streak that has delivered four trophies.

Coach Justin Langer's game plan hinges on early wickets but his attack had taken just two with 25 balls remaining against India, which set a monster target of 353.

"The turning point was that Indian game, where we had a good chat as a bowling group and a batting group," Starc, who took 1/74 that day, said.

"Since that game we've taken wickets through the middle. Whether it's attacking more or execution, we were all probably a little bit off in that Indian game.

"They had wickets in the shed and exploded at the end."

Opener Shikhar Dhawan (117 off 109) was chief destroyer that day but a broken thumb suffered early in that innings has ruled him out for the tournament.

Dual World Cup winner Brad Hogg was invited into the rooms after that match and left convinced the team was embarking on something special.

"I've been fortunate enough to be there and you do get in a bit of a bubble. But these guys were just so switched on and it was a different vibe from what I've ever felt before," Hogg said.

Starc said the secret was a "sense of calm" in the group.

"Even when things are not quite happening for us, it's still very calm," he said.

 

News Corp Australia


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